According to figures released by the Department for Education (DfE), 558,658 pupils in primary schools across England are being taught in classes of 31 or more (as of January this year). In Birmingham, for example, this equates to 11,503 children in classes of over 30, meaning one in nine primary pupils in Birmingham (11 percent) are now being taught in a large class, up slightly from 10.9 percent a year before.
The Birmingham Mail reported Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for education, as saying: “Today’s figures expose the consequences of the Tory cuts to our schools, with more and more pupils crammed in to super-sized classes that can only make it harder for them to learn.”
What Angela Rayner and other Labour MPs and councillors want to hide from the public is that the commercialisation of schools began under Tony Blair’s Labour party with the Learning and Skills Act 2000. Successive Labour governments, and then the Liberal Democrats and Tory coalition (and in more recent times the Conservative governments of Cameron and May) have consolidated and accelerated this process.
The academies, which began to replace local authority-funded schools, brought private finance into the running of schools, and are a part and parcel of move towards full-scale privatisation in primary and secondary education. Along with an increase in religious, private and grammar schools, academies paved the way for the re-establishment of the two-tier system in state education, abolishing comprehensive schooling.
What do communists say?
At our party’s eighth congress last September, a motion on education declared:
“This congress notes that today in Britain, rather than education and vocational training being viewed as a social necessity and individual necessity required for the full flourishing of society as a whole as well as the individuals within it, education and training are treated as a commodity, which is sold to the working class as a product that will provide a higher income to them as individuals, irrespective of its social utility or its ability to enhance the individual life.
“Congress believes that all education and training from creche and kindergarten through school, university, vocational college and on to adult lifelong learning and retraining should be provided free, along with full maintenance grants to full-time pupils and students, that sufficient teachers should educated, trained and provided, and that vocational training should be awarded equal respect to academic education, since the plumber is as useful and as necessary as the sanitation engineer.
“Recognising the above, congress resolves that the party’s demands regarding education are:
“1. The expulsion of all private interests in education, including the abolition of academies and their return to the state school system and the end of private provision of goods and services to educational institutions, with all staff brought in-house with realistic wages and full employment rights.
“2. The abolition of private, religious and ethnically-divided schools.
“3. The abolition of tuition fees in all institutions at all levels of education.
“4. The provision of maintenance grants to cover living expenses of working-class students and their families, from creche and kindergarten through nursery, to school, undergraduate and higher-degree level.
“5. Changes in the syllabuses and teaching methods should reflect the scientific, historical and artistic needs and interests of working-class people, including the teaching of materialist philosophy, science and working-class history and politics.”